I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
— Robert Frost, The Road Not Taken
On May 13, we published our report, “It’s OK To Break Up With Social Media.” In the month since then, Facebook, Inc. (which owns the Facebook app, Instagram, Messenger, and WhatsApp), Twitter, and Snapchat have taken divergent positions on how they handle political content on their social networks. Twitter has banned political ads and taken steps to correct misinformation from political figures. Snapchat no longer promotes the US president’s official account in the Discover section of its app. Meanwhile, Facebook, Inc. has publicly stated that it will take no action. Marketers have taken note (from an advertising perspective, at least). Headlines from the last two weeks:
- Adweek: Inside the Longshot Campaign to Get Advertisers to Ditch Facebook
- Ad Age: Facebook Hears Rumbles Of Advertiser Rebellion Over Its Unwillingness To Check Trump
- The New York Times: ‘Morally Impossible’: Some Advertisers Take a Timeout From Facebook
- The Wall Street Journal: Ad Agency Encourages Clients to Join Facebook Ad Boycott
- Ad Age: The North Face Becomes First Major Brand To Join Facebook Ad Boycott
Will The North Face be the North Star for other companies to stick to corporate values and rethink their organic and advertising presences on social media? In addition to its users’ political turmoil, social media has also become an imbalance of brands shouting at consumers (both organic posting and advertising) without truly understanding what social users want from brands — if anything at all. Instead, brands need to do a better job of listening to consumers. Listening can happen through traditional monitoring but also via social customer service, communities, ratings and reviews, and user-generated content feedback.
Ultimately, consumers, not companies, will define brands on social media. To date, 40% of US online adults agree that “social media is a great tool to show a brand or company how I feel about them,” according to Forrester Analytics Consumer Technographics® survey data. And more social media users talk about topics beyond specific brand names, including product/service/category wants and needs — all conversation that brands can leverage for R&D, better customer service, and creative planning, to name a few.
The Facebook, Inc. ad boycott is a step toward forcing brands to pause and think about their role in social media. We’d like to see companies go even further and reconsider — or possibly overhaul — their entire social media programs beyond advertising buys.
Update since we published this blog on June 19: Ad Age: Patagonia, REI Join Facebook Boycott, Following The North Face